If this is Full Maintenance, Why are there so many Exclusions?

Elevator Contract can be puzzling as a Rubik's Cube.
Elevator maintenance contracts can be as puzzling as a Rubik’s Cube.

So you’ve decided to sign a Full Maintenance contract with your friendly neighborhood Elevator Contractor.  You’ve been told that Full Maintenance is like insurance, so everything is covered.  But then you read the contract and there’s a long list of exclusions.  What gives?  Are they misleading you?

Actually, no.  There are some things that are commonly–and appropriately–excluded from Full Maintenance contracts.  They fall into 3 categories: Things that are typically performed by another trade, things that don’t prevent the elevator from running, and things that are beyond the control of the Elevator Contractor.

Examples of things performed by another trade:

  • Light bulbs in the car ceiling.
  • Electrical power supply.  Anything before the controller is done by an electrician.  Once it hits the controller, the elevator mechanic takes over.
  • Sump pump.
  • Fire alarm and smoke detector systems
  • Phone lines.  Like the power supply, the phone company takes it to the controller and the elevator mechanic makes sure the unit in the car works.

Note that many of the above examples also don’t keep the elevator from running.  If a light bulb burns out or the sump pump dies, the elevator still runs just fine. More examples:

  • Aesthetic things:  Cab walls, floor, doors, sills. These are things that make the elevator look nice, but if they get dinged up by wear and tear, they won’t stop the elevator.

Examples of things that are beyond the Elevator Contractor’s control:

  • Acts of God:  Lightning strikes and zaps your controller, or a heavy rainstorm floods the pit.
  • Regulations change:  Your state requires new safety equipment be installed, or obsolete equipment be replaced.
  • Vandalism:  Someone smashes a button or dings up a door, intentionally or unintentionally.
  • Underground jacks and piping:  Because they aren’t visible they can’t be inspected.  Fortunately problems with these are rare.

It’s reasonable for the Elevator Contractor to only cover what they can control, as that keeps them incentivized to be preventive in their maintenance work.

One final category is proprietary equipment and software.  The Bigg Elevators of the world often install equipment that requires proprietary software to diagnose high-level problems, and then make it difficult (or very expensive) for competitors to buy the software.  We’ll talk about proprietary equipment in another post, so for now suffice it to say that it’s a reasonable exclusion.

So what’s left?  This sure seems like an awfully long list.  Believe it or not, there is plenty that’s covered by Full Maintenance.  My favorite contract ever had the following phrase: “This contract INCLUDES all items that actually make the elevator run.”  And I think that’s a simple but elegant way to differentiate what’s covered and what’s not.

So yes, there are plenty of things that are left.  Here are some examples of things that should be covered:

Driving machines
Motors, including gears, worms, bearings, thrusts, brushes, windings, magnet frames, coils, rotating elements
Brake magnet coils or stators, brake shoes and lining
Contacts
Controller parts and boards
Guide shoes or roller guides
Batteries for emergency lighting, battery lowering, board memory, UPS systems
Door hangers, rollers, track, sills, car tops, machine rooms, and pits
Door operator parts, motors and belts
Push buttons and key switches
Position indicator and call lights
Hydraulic power unit, including pump, motor and valve
Packing on hydraulic piston
Starters
Relays
Hydraulic fluid
Limit switches

Lessons for you:

1. Read your contract carefully and make sure that the exclusions fall into one of the above categories.  While there are many standard exclusions, it’s possible that someone will try to exclude something that should be included.

2. If you have any questions about items not being covered, ask.  An educated customer is a better customer. I once gave a tour to a reluctant potential customer, showing him the cab interior, machine room, car top and pit, pointing at all the things that were covered, to help him understand and differentiate the inclusions and exclusions.

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